The Google search algorithm is an ever-evolving beast that wants to make search better for us humans. Google’s new Helpful Content Update is, in my estimation, a pretty spectacular next move up. How will it affect your website?
What exactly is “helpful content?”
This article from Search Engine Land offers a tidy answer:
Searchers are getting frustrated when they land on unhelpful pages that rank well in search because they were designed to rank well. Google’s new algorithm aims to downgrade those types of websites while promoting more helpful websites, designed for humans above search engines. Google said this is an “ongoing effort to reduce low-quality content and make it easier to find content that feels authentic and useful.”
You could say that the Google Helpful Content Update is not necessarily a new thing. Consider the featured snippets in practically any SERP page: Based on your query, Google serves up content that tries to give you an answer without the need to click any further.
A sea change in search?
What I find intriguing about the Helpful Content Update is this: Google has evolved its search algorithm to the level where it can discern content that we humans actually want from content that was created to “work the algorithm” for search wins.
Absolutely, the on-page and technical aspects of SEO still matter. But now it’s almost like Google is reading your content. Reviewing it, not with a fine-tooth comb, but certainly with a far more critical eye.
Quality content makes a comeback.
I think of this as another victory for high-quality content. Just as keyword-stuffing became detrimental to search many years ago, the HCU will weed out practices like:
- Content that tries to match some idea of Google’s preferred word count
- Topics that seem “spitballed” to catch a trend, as opposed to strategically unified (another reason to leverage topic clusters)
- Mass-produced, or even AI-generated content.
- Error-prone content.
- Clickbait-y, hyperbolic, or needlessly provocative headlines/page titles
Right there you’ve got a 5-point punch list of actions that can mitigate the impact of HCU.
Here’s how the Google Helpful Content Update will assess your site.
I’ll refer you to this helpful article for deep specifics, but as a top-line, Google has decreed that helpful content accomplishes the following:
Helpful content speaks expressly to a specific audience. If your business operates in a defined niche or vertical market, this is likely less of an issue because…
Helpful content reflects your authority on the topic. Google HCU discerns expertise from a content author’s bona fides, first-hand experience, product knowledge, evidence-based recommendations, original “takes” on the topics at hand, to name a few factors.
Helpful content is legit, not sketchy. Trust is priceless, nowhere more so than on the web. If people see your content as trustworthy, then they’ll see your business as trustworthy, too. You can help your cause with by backing your claims with data, comparing your products/services with your competitors apples-to-apples, general factual accuracy, and content that’s cleanly designed and thoroughly proofed.
Helpful content gives users what they’re after. In short, helpful content is the sole, 100% satisfying destination for the answer(s) that a searcher is after.
Helpful content: It’s a sitewide thing.
Google mainly crawls, indexes, and ranks websites on an individual page basis. The Helpful Content Update, however, will be applied sitewide.
Google has been vague about a desired or optimal helpful:unhelpful page ratio. But they HAVE advised that “removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.”
Remember: The core SEO basics STILL matter.
Google (and Bing and any other search engine that’s left) haven’t left behind the core, keyword-optimized SEO basics that every page of your site and blog must have, just as the price of admission to the algorithm:
- Unique keyword or keyphrase
- H1 and select subheads
- Title Tag
- Meta Description
- Image alt-text
- Plus your XML site map
Need help with the Google Helpful Content Update? Reach out, we’re right here.
Google’s Helpful Content Update just raised the bar for everyone’s website. What does this mean for your site and content strategy? Our Digital Marketing team is here to help you assess your site and gameplan your next moves. Send us a message or click the orange chat button at bottom right.
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More insights on better search performance:
Blog post: Link Building: An Introduction for SMBs
Blog post: Schema, Structured Data, and Search